A bargain at $5

When I was home for Thanksgiving this past month, I made a return trip to my old high school for a basketball game.  You may not be aware of it, but when I was growing up in Indiana, high school basketball was king in the state.  Like high school hockey is in Minnesota and high school football is in Texas.  There was nothing that could compete with a Friday or Saturday basketball game in my gym, which just happened to be the second largest in the US but was also the second largest in Indiana.  It seats 8996.  Just to give you a little perspective, 9 of the top 11 largest gyms in the country are found in the state.  Like I said, we take our basketball seriously in Indiana.  Or at least we used to.  Time, manufacturing leaving the area, changing to a class system and competition from other forms of entertainment have taken their toll on attendance.  Shockingly so.  I was pleasantly surprised the ticket prices were still $5 for adults.  But even at a price that was 30% lower than a movie ticket and a strong push from an alumni group to go to this particular game, there were probably only about 1500 people watching the game.  The band, which used to take up the entire stage and spill out the sides, was so small the sound barely reached beyond the heavy velvet drapes that still hung from the rigging.

I know change is inevitable but it broke my heart to see what had become of the school I loved and hated at the same time.  High school for me wasn’t the glory years usually portrayed in film.  It was more like Sherman’s march through the south, brutal and unrelenting.  But regardless of the battle wounds I’d received, I still was saddened by how far it had fallen.  There was even talk it might be closed permanently.

Nonetheless, the game went on and the Indians were triumphant.  I’m going to try to go to another game sometime before the winter’s out.  If only to support the effort of the athletes that are surrounded by the glories that once were. They’ll never know what it was like when the room was filled to the rafters and it was standing room only.  But maybe my whoops and cheers will add to the meager chorus and show the “spirit seldom seen” as our school song says.

It’s all personal

I hope you can forgive me for another movie reference.  As an actress, so many of my touchstones come from the world of cinema.  As I noted the other day in my post There’s No Place Like Home, I watched the movie You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.  It’s a wonderful movie and one that was fun to revisit for a while.  It’s funny how things hit you differently at different times.  Since I’d seen it a bunch when it first came out, I was reacquainting myself with some of the great writing Nora Ephron did on this film.  But this time, a section of dialogue jumped out at me which it hadn’t done before.  It was when Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) goes to Kathleen’s (Meg Ryan) apartment after her store closed because he’s found out she’s sick with a bad cold.  She’s not very gracious about the visit and is not polite to him at all.  He says to her “It wasn’t personal“.  She replies “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”  He doesn’t quit know what to say to this challenge so he replies very eloquently “uh, nothing“.  She retorts, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

This stood out to me as if Klieg lights were shined directly on the text.  My whole life I’ve been told I take things too personally.  In business, when I was passed over for a promotion for someone that was still in the training program, I was told this was nothing personal, just the best decision for the business (really?  it had nothing to do with the fact his salary was half of mine?!).  In acting when you are the product, you work your entire career to not take the rejection personally.  You are too blond, brunette, tall, short, green eyed, female, whatever.  How on earth those comments can’t be taken personally is beyond me!

It is personal to me as I’m sure it is to the majority of people walking around.  Dismissing customers, comments, complaints & suggestions with a flip “It’s not personal” does a disservice to the integrity of a human connection.  It’s saying your priorities are more important than the other persons.  Sometimes it’s an easy cop-out to a difficult situation or a way to avoid a truthful confrontation.  But don’t fool yourself, it may not be personal to you, but it’s very personal to the other person.  Remembering that fact may help find a better way to express yourself.

Tour De Force

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the premiere of the epic Civil War saga, Gone With the Wind.  Turner Classic Movies played the film in it’s entirety with no interruptions.  I happened to catch it just as Atlanta was falling to those Yankees.  So I missed some of my favorites scenes with the prettiest dresses at the beginning of the movie.  After all, what girl didn’t imagine herself at the barbeque in that beautiful green dress that her mammy deemed so inappropriate because it showed her shoulders before evening.  On top of that, she was surrounded by all the handsomest beaux in the county.  Truly a dream!

I promptly sat down and watched the remainder of the movie.  I still turned my eyes at the most difficult to watch scenes of war and suffering and this time turned the sound down.  But this time around, I was struck by how amazing the film was.  I don’t know if you know any of the history of this movie and all the difficulty that happened in trying to get it made.  The short end of the story is they went through multiple directors, many rewrites, budget issues, casting challenges.  You name it, they experienced it.  They even started filming before the role of Scarlett O’Hara was even cast.  But through it all, what remained was one of the most exciting, visually engaging and well produced films of history.  I’d forgotten how much I loved this movie.

I’d also forgotten the incredible writing that the film contained.  My favorite line comes at the end of the movie.  No not the one Clark Gable is remembered for, the classic “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”, but instead the one that Scarlett says after he leaves.  In her grief and sadness as she is trying to figure out her next step, she makes the statement that is my favorite-“Tomorrow is another day”.  I love this.  Tomorrow is another day, it is a new beginning, a new start, an opportunity to do the right thing and take the next chance.  That is the promise made to us.  We will have another go at it.  If we are lucky it will happen with beautiful clothes and fabulous lighting but if that isn’t the case, grab at it anyway with both hands and make the best of it.

There’s no place like home

Do you ever get that uneasy feeling?  The one that comes from the realization that not enough right is happening in your life.   So of course you need to shake things up, make some stuff happen, just get SOMETHING moving in a direction, any direction will do.  You can call it restlessness if you want .  Or maybe it’s dissatisfaction.  Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel good.  So by golly let’s make a change.  All of the sudden you start considering things you’d never consider before, like oh I don’t know, maybe moving to New York or LA.  After all, I am an actor right?  Why wouldn’t I make a move there?  Makes perfect sense to me.  Or sheesh, I haven’t had a decent date in the back half of this decade so of course it’s a good idea to ring up an old flame to reignite something that is long dead and buried, thank heavens.  I’m sure all of the things that weren’t quite right then have all resolved themselves.  Or you quit your job, fire your agent, finally tell off your sister.  Anything to move the needle.  Get out of the funk that has overtaken your life.

I found myself in this exact situation recently.  Things aren’t moving as fast as I want them to in most aspects of my life.  I’ve got plans after all and a timeline which I expect to be met.  And when reality crashes into my expectations like 2 atoms at the new Hadron Collider, it really sends me into a downward spiral that threatens to overtake me.  So add to this lethal mix 2 New York based movies, Sex and the City and You’ve Got Mail with all their pretty pictures, nice people, beautiful apartments, perfect wardrobes, snappy lines, and you have the makings of a hare-brained idea to chuck all this and move to NY.  Brilliant right?  The rub is, when you get to NY or wherever you run too, once you unpack everything, you realize you’ve brought with you the same problems you had in the old location.  The only thing different is the zip code.  And you’ve compounded it once you realize you’ve left behind the support system you’d painstakingly built in your old locale.  So now you have to start all over building a new one and in your spare time, deal with your problem all by your lonesome.

It is said if you want to hear God laugh, just tell Him what you’ve got planned.  Whatever it is that isn’t right in your world, you have to fix it before you can move forward.  It sure would be easier to run away.  Sometimes being a grown up ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Oh Brother!

Today is my brothers birthday.  He’s the one next to me in line so he’s the oldest male in the family.  We are 20 months apart in age but since I was Miss SmartyPants and had to skip a grade, we were 3 grades apart.  In high school the age difference was probably the broadest as he was a freshman when I was a oh-so-cool-I-can’t-talk-to-you senior.  I mean I had my driver’s license.  Come on, how much cooler could I get?  Oh I’d deign to talk to him when I was giving him a ride to school in the mornings.  Poor guy, my extensive ministrations every morning meant we were flying to school as fast as my 1972 Chevy Nova V-8 engine could carry us.  He inevitably was sprinting across the railroad tracks from the student parking lot in a vain attempt to not be late for his first hour of class.  Whatever, he was a freshman.  They’re supposed to suffer.

Strangely enough he followed me to college and enrolled in the engineering school at Marquette my senior year.  There is an infamous story about his interview with the Dean of the engineering school that I accompanied him on.  As I’d done for most of his life, I proceeded to answer all the questions the Dean asked my brother.  At which point the Dean turned to me and oh so elegantly led me down my path of self betrayal “So, do you want to attend Marquette?” he asked.  ” Oh no sir” I replied with no little bit of condescension “I’m already enrolled here”.  He smiled and replied “then I don’t need to talk to you do I?”  The smile on my brother’s face was priceless.  Someone had finally told his sister in no uncertain terms to shut up.  Yes Virginia, miracles do happen.

As we’ve aged, the age difference has dissipated.  In fact, sometimes I think he’s more mature than I am.  He created (along with his beautiful wife) the family I’d always wanted.  He’s been the rock I’ve turned to more times than I can remember, especially these past 20 months.  He’s the one I know will drop everything when I need help.  He calls to check up on me every week and he lets me do all the talking once again.  I can honestly say, he’s more than a brother to me, he’s one of my best friends.  I’m very, very lucky to have him in my life.  Thanks Bro, and Happy Birthday.

The rules (no not THOSE rules)

I know what you are thinking.  You think because I’m a girl I’m referring to “The Rules” that came out a few years ago with regards to dating.  I’m not.  I’m so much more than that!  But of course you knew that already.

The rules I’m referring to are the ones that we as members of a fairly civilized human race have to abide by in our daily lives.  I guess the overarching one is the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Specifically I’m referring to the ones that govern our conduct in marriage, relationships, business partnerships and the like.  This year, 2009, has been one that seems to be fraught with examples of people who think the rules no longer apply to them.  Bernie Madoff, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and now Tiger Woods.  Our headlines are littered with people who have achieved a level of success or notoriety that they no longer feel as if the rules apply to them.  The code of decent behavior is for others, not them.  And time and again, they are reminded, in very painful and public ways, that they were dead wrong.  You cheat, in whatever manner that means, and you will get caught.  And no matter how tight you try to control your image, the truth will out.  And baby the truth will set you free.  Or at least it sets the paparazzi and tabloids free to run amok over your carefully crafted life.

Taking shortcuts in your morals and practices may work in the short run but eventually it all catches up with you and the house of cards comes tumbling down.  And if you had just lived your life with integrity in the first place, you would have to deal with all the crap coming your way now.  Seems an easier way to carefully craft a life.

Boy are these soapboxes tall.  I could get to like the view from up here.  But then there’s that glass house thing.  Oh well.


I love that word.  And I actually even like the movie with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale of the same name.  Webster’s defines the word as the faculty or phenomenon of valuable or finding agreeable things not sought for.  In other words discovering the unexpected treasures in our lives.  It can be as simple as scoring rock star parking in front of a crowded restaurant, having a lunch meeting turn a relationship from one of business to one of friendship or even rediscovering an old photo you’d forgotten about.  Taking the time to relish in the discovery and recognize it for what it is, a gift.  All to often, we just scootch into the parking spot without a thought, part company at the door without a backward glance or chuck the photo in a drawer.  If we could just slow down a bit and see the smile on a stranger’s face, hear the laughter of a child, feel the warmth of the sun on our face on a cold winter’s day, think how much better our lives would be.  We exist on a semi-conscious auto pilot for most of our waking hours, mostly out of necessity to get through our complicated lives.  Rushing here and there, checking off to-do’s when we know there will be another daunting list to be accomplished tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

The old cliche says to stop and smell the roses.  I think it’s to become aware of the gifts serendipity brings to our life and not take them for granted.

Colorado Quiet

Winter has finally come to Chicago with a vengeance.  It’s been snowing off and on for several days.  It’s not really sticking because Lake Michigan is still pretty warm so the air temperature makes the snow melt.  We’ve been enjoying the global warming effect for the month of November.  Temps were in the upper 40’s-low 50’s the entire month.  Golfers were out in force on all the public courses well into December.  They’re wired a little different than the rest of us but it was pretty warm.

All this is coming to an end this week.  First the snow and then the wind and falling temps will come screaming in.  But the snow has been wonderful.  I’m always surprised at how much it quiets the world as it falls.  I’ve named it Colorado quiet because that was the first place I became aware of how magical the silence was.  And how calm and focused I have become in the quiet.  Winter has never been one of my favorite seasons because having to commute in it can really break your spirit.  But this year I’m working from home so no nasty commute or walking across the Michigan Avenue bridge in 35 MPH winds.  Maybe I’ll truly come to appreciate this season and it’s beauty.  I know I truly appreciate the silence.

Tater Tots for breakfast

Yes you read that right.  I said Tater Tots for breakfast.  I’m out of eggs, having scrambled my last ones before I left for New York for the weekend.  I keep forgetting to stop at the store to pick up more.  I know what you’re thinking, “seriously, she can’t remember to go to the grocery store?!” so let me explain.  I live behind a grocery store.  Or at least I used to before they closed it to tear it down and rebuild it.  Just like Steve Austin, “we can rebuild him, make him better, stronger, faster”.  In just 18 short months, I’ll have a bionic grocery store.  Or 18 take forever months if you are trying to record on a very sensitive microphone and every beep and vibration from the big dig gets picked up for posterity.  But I digress.

Like I said, I’m out of eggs.  And because for 16 years, I’ve walked out my back door through the parking lot to my grocers, I can’t seem to remember to stop at the store.  I’m stuck in a rut, an old way of doing something and I haven’t made the conscious change in my mind.  That’s the step I’m missing, the conscious change part.  That’s the hardest step to take because we create shortcuts in our lives and brains to get through the myriad of tasks that need to be accomplished in any given day.  It’s the one thing that needs to happen to create any sort of self revolution.  Rather a dramatic statement.  Weren’t we just talking about eggs?

I’ll try to remember to stop tonight on my way home tonight.  But just in case I have more tater tots in the freezer.

Putting yourself out there

Ah, vulnerability.  The word just sounds nerve wracking.  Webster defines it as capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.  For the most part I think of it in the emotional sense.  Going out on a date with a new guy, plunging into a crowd not knowing anyone, submitting to a new agent, joining a group.  I’m pretty good at the initial stuff, the meeting and greeting.  Years of working in sales provided me with that skill.  It’s when you get past the first blush, the shiny new feeling, that it gets nerve wracking.  First dates (and I mean that in the broadest sense, not just the for real dating sense but that applies too) are pretty easy, it’s all about where you grew up, your family, college, experiences, recent travel.  The second date, if it gets to that, is where the hard part begins.  You’ve learned the surface info but don’t know the other person well enough to let down your guard.  You know you are still being evaluated, after all you are evaluating as well.  But the fact that someone is looking at you and scrutinizing you has a higher priority than what you are doing simultaneously.  You are laying it all out there hoping the other person will say “hey I like you, come join me for …”  Your emotions, weaknesses and frailties are on display for all to see.  And boy is it a palpable feeling of fear.  What if they don’t like what they see, what if the reaction is “meh”, what if I like them more than they like me?  What if?  That fear of rejection never goes away, we just get more capable of managing it.  We realize that if we give into that fear, we’ll miss out on some pretty amazing people and experiences.  Our lives then become a series of “what ifs” not incredible memories and great stories.  And we forget that no matter who the other person is, what success they’ve achieved in life, how confident they appear, they suffer from the same fear of being rejected and discarded.

Oh that sound you hear?  It’s my knees knocking and my heart pounding.  You too?